NEW YORK – The roots of Molson Coors’ historic gains in 2023 can be traced back to the progress it made and the lessons it’s learned as it turned the business around over the course of the last four years, Chief Commercial Officer Michelle St. Jacques told industry insiders this week.
What’s more, Molson Coors’ trends mark a structural shift in the U.S. beer industry, St. Jacques said.
Speaking at the Beer Insights Seminar, she shared how the company’s commercial and supply chain teams have overcome industry pressures in the U.S. and Canada by adhering to a laser-focused strategy: staying agile to quickly respond to change, driving partnerships with U.S. distributors toward common goals, and being clear about what each brand stands for.
Now, as the company turns its attention to the year ahead, St. Jacques said it is confident in its ability to build on the gains it’s seen in 2023, with the company’s recently unveiled Acceleration Plan providing a roadmap to do so.
And while the Acceleration Plan hinges on key points, including growing Molson Coors’ core brands, aggressively premiumizing the portfolio, expanding its beyond beer offerings and investing in its commercial and operational capabilities, St. Jacques said 2023’s gains are, more than anything, the result of years of building a strong foundation.
“This isn’t an eight-month story: it’s been four years in the making,” she said. “When you think about it as part of our broader company strategy, keeping our core brands healthy is critical to being able then to drive premiumization and expand beyond beer.”
The result of that consistency is reflected in the strength of core brands Coors Light, Miller Lite and Coors Banquet, each of which are growing revenue, volume and industry share, as evidenced by the company’s third-quarter earnings.
And, she said, the numbers aren’t budging.
Molson Coors is growing more share of displays than competitors, a trend that began over the summer and has continued with distributors securing important floor space during football season, St. Jacques said. And, she said, Molson Coors is benefiting from a large crop of retailers that shifted their product mix in the fall.
“We are seeing a disproportionate number of retailers who have changed their shelf resets based on the momentum we’re seeing,” she said. “From our data, Molson Coors is by far the biggest recipient of that increase.”
In the on-premise, she said, Molson Coors’ brands continue to grab more share than any other brewer in the U.S., having secured more than 12,000 new tap handles through the third quarter.
“When you look across everything, off-premise, on-premise, distribution, we’re seeing that consistency everywhere,” she said.
Banquet’s on fire
Beyond the success of Coors Light and Miller Lite, Coors Banquet has also been a winner in 2023, with sales volume up more than 27% for the 26 weeks that ended Nov. 5 and 20% year to date, according to Circana data.
“Banquet has been on an absolute tear and it has a ton of momentum ahead of it,” she said.
It’s also caught on with younger legal-age drinkers who are embracing ‘cowboy cool,’ St. Jacques added.
“If you go to any major music festival, people are rocking their cowboy hats and boots, and they’re drinking Coors Banquet,” she said. And the beer’s been hard to miss on the hit TV show “Yellowstone,” where it was the official beer of the program’s fourth season.
St. Jacques believes there’s more room for Banquet to grow, especially when it comes to distribution and retail displays, adding that 2024 will entail “more media and more partnerships” for the brand.
Premiumization and beyond beer
St. Jacques also said Molson Coors is taking a customized approach to its growing beyond beer portfolio, which includes spirits, non-alcohol beverages and flavor. And a key part of the company’s Acceleration Plan includes earning a third of its global revenue from its above premium portfolio, with half of that revenue coming from beyond beer.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all (approach). We don’t have the same playbook for each of them,” she said.
Flavor – which includes flavored-alcohol beverages and hard seltzers – has brought more legal-age drinkers into the Molson Coors portfolio, she said, and the company has responded with offerings like Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, Simply Spiked and new products like Peace Hard Tea and its spiked refresher Happy Thursday, coming next year.
Simply Spiked, for example, appeals to consumers who crave real juice flavors, while Happy Thursday was developed with input from legal-age Gen Z drinkers who wanted a bubble-free and sessionable option.
Another important partnership is with ZOA Energy, a brand with which Molson Coors recently increased its investment. St. Jacques said she’s excited about a new marketing campaign kicking off next year that she thinks can elevate the brand.
And Molson Coors’ recent addition of Blue Run Spirits shows its flexible model allows for acquisitions.
“It’s a great new product to have in our portfolio,” she said. “Blue Run is such cool brand…we’re giving it the right resources to become a bigger part of the portfolio.”
Strong start in 2024
Molson Coors is set to start 2024 strong, St. Jacques said.
Coors Light is starring in its own Super Bowl ad, distributors have signaled historically strong support for its plans around Coors Light and Miller Lite, new products like Happy Thursday and a new offering from Simply Spiked are on deck, Blue Moon is set to introduce new packaging and an expanded marketing campaign, and Molson Coors’ breweries are primed to continue to meet demand.
“If you think about our strategy and our new Acceleration Plan, the principles are pretty consistent with what we’ve been doing the last few years,” she said. “Now, we’re looking to be bigger and bolder.”
This article contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the U.S. federal securities laws – please click here for the full Molson Coors’ forward-looking statement disclaimer.